Coast Riders Part 1: Miller Time

A Pacific pilgrimage to the shrine of my favorite author.

When our Miss High Times 2007 Sarah asked my wife April and me  to emcee her wedding in LA last August, we decided to spend the following two weeks driving up the Pacific Coast to Portland. Among the many scenic vistas and tourist traps along our way, the attraction I was most excited about, ironically, was “the place where nothing happens”—the Henry Miller Memorial Library in Big Sur.

Originally from Brooklyn (like me), Henry Miller spent the 1930s in France and Greece before driving across America and finally settling in Big Sur, where he lived for two decades and penned Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch in 1957. The library—originally the home of his friend Emil White—was dedicated to Miller after his death in 1980 and has since served as both a memorial and a nonprofit arts center, hosting numerous festivals and concerts on its grounds.

In fact, there was just such an event happening when we arrived there that evening. The kindly young wook working the door informed us that the funky grooves we heard pouring from within were coming from the band Foxygen, that the concert was part of the Woodsist Festival, and that—much to my dismay—it was sold out.

“Sold out?!” I exclaimed as I peered into the yard. “Seriously? There’s hardly anybody in there!”

“I’m sorry,” Chewy Jr. replied, “but there are no more tickets available.”

“Listen … we may never be back here again, and Henry Miller is my favorite writer … if I can’t see his memorial, I’m gonna be heartbroken. Can we just go into the bookstore maybe?”

He obviously sympathized with my situation, but wasn’t budging. I had but one card left to play—my High Times business card.

“Look, I’m gonna level with you: I’m an editor at High Times magazine, and I was planning to write about my visit here. If you don’t let me in, I’ll have no story for our next issue. If you can find it in your heart to hook us up with a wristband, I promise to return the favor at one of our Cannabis Cups. What do you say?”

After a moment of conflicted contemplation, he turned to me with a smirk. “Okay—give me your wrist.”

After a profusion of gratitude, I made a beeline straight for the bookshop. Inside was a mini Miller museum, filled with a plethora of his personal artifacts: paintings, typewriters, even a framed rejection letter from Random House for his book Black Spring—further testament that genius all too often goes unrecognized in its time. After soaking it all in and picking up a few souvenirs, we headed back out to catch a few songs from hipster-groove band Real Estate. We watched them (and the ’60s-style psychedelic light show playing behind them) just long enough to finish a joint, then headed out.

Early the next morning, as we once again went winding northward along the cliffs of Highway 1 through a creeping curtain of fog, I took a deep toke, whipped out my copy of Big Sur and began reading aloud to April from its inspired introduction:

“From the ocean depths there issued strange formations, contours unique and seductive. As if the Titans of the deep had labored for aeons to shape and mold the earth …. At dawn, its majesty is almost painful to behold. That same prehistoric look. The look of always. Nature smiling at herself in the mirror of eternity.”

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